Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of The Borgias, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

restricted area from an adversary against whom he had no other
resource than flight, had not Alfonso appeared suddenly, just when
the bull was beginning to gain upon him, waving a red cloak in his
left hand, and holding in his right a long delicate Aragon sword.  It
was high time: the bull was only a few paces distant from Caesar, and
the risk he was running appeared so imminent that a woman's scream
was heard from one of the windows.  But at the sight of a man on foot
the bull stopped short, and judging that he would do better business
with the new enemy than the old one, he turned upon him instead.  For
a moment he stood motionless, roaring, kicking up the dust with his
hind feet, and lashing his sides with his tail.  Then he rushed upon
Alfonso, his eyes all bloodshot, his horns tearing up the ground.
Alfonso awaited him with a tranquil air; then, when he was only three
paces away, he made a bound to one sides and presented instead of his
body his sword, which disappeared at once to the hilt; the bull,
checked in the middle of his onslaught, stopped one instant
motionless and trembling, then fell upon his knees, uttered one dull
roar, and lying down on the very spot where his course had been
checked, breathed his last without moving a single step forward.

Applause resounded an all sides, so rapid and clever had been the
blow.  Caesar had remained on horseback, seeking to discover the fair
spectator who had given so lively a proof of her interest in him,
without troubling himself about what was going on: his search had not
been unrewarded, far he had recognized one of the maids of honour to
Elizabeth, Duchess of Urbino, who was betrothed to Gian Battista
Carraciualo, captain-general of the republic of Venice.

It was now Alfonso's turn to run from the bull, Caesar's to fight
him: the young men changed parts, and when four mules had reluctantly
dragged the dead bull from the arena, and the valets and other
servants of His Holiness had scattered sand over the places that were
stained with blood, Alfonso mounted a magnificent Andalusian steed of
Arab origin, light as the wind of Sahara that had wedded with his
mother, while Caesar, dismounting, retired in his turn, to reappear
at the moment when Alfonso should be meeting the same danger from
which he had just now rescued him.

Then a second bull was introduced upon the scene, excited in the same
manner with steeled darts and flaming arrows.  Like his predecessor,
when he perceived a man on horseback he rushed upon him, and then
began a marvellous race, in which it was impossible to see, so
quickly did they fly over the ground, whether the horse was pursuing
the bull or the bull the horse.  But after five or six rounds, the
bull began to gain upon the son of Araby, for all his speed, and it
was plain to see who fled and who pursued; in another moment there
was only the length of two lances between them, and then suddenly
Caesar appeared, armed with one of those long two handed swords which
the French are accustomed to use, and just when the bull, almost
close upon Don Alfonso, came in front of Caesar he brandished the
sword, which flashed like lightning, and cut off his head, while his
body, impelled by the speed of the run, fell to the ground ten paces
farther on.  This blow was so unexpected, and had been performed with
such dexterity, that it was received not with mere clapping but with
wild enthusiasm and frantic outcry.  Caesar, apparently remembering
nothing else in his hour of triumph but the scream that had been
caused by his former danger, picked up the bull's head, and, giving
it to one of his equerries, ordered him to lay it as an act of homage
at the feet of the fair Venetian who had bestowed upon him so lively
a sign of interest.  This fete, besides affording a triumph to each
of the young men, had another end as well; it was meant to prove to
the populace that perfect goodwill existed between the two, since
each had saved the life of the other.  The result was that, if any
accident should happen to Caesar, nobody would dream of accusing
Alfanso; and also if any accident should happen to Alfonso, nobody
would dream, of accusing Caesar.

There was a supper at the Vatican.  Alfonso made an elegant toilet,
and about ten o'clock at night prepared to go from the quarters he
inhabited into those where the pope lived; but the door which
separated the two courts of the building was shut, and knock as he
would, no one came to open it.  Alfonso then thought that it was a
simple matter for him to go round by the Piazza of St. Peter's; so he
went out unaccompanied through one of the garden gates of the Vatican
and made his way across the gloomy streets which led to the stairway
which gave on the piazza.  But scarcely had he set his foot on the
first step when he was attacked by a band of armed men.  Alfonso
would have drawn his sword; but before it was out of the scabbard he
had received two blows from a halberd, one on his head, the other on
his shoulder; he was stabbed in the side, and wounded both in the leg
and in the temple.  Struck down by these five blows, he lost his
footing and fell to the ground unconscious; his assassins, supposing
he was dead, at once remounted the stairway, and found on the piazza
forty horsemen waiting for them: by them they were calmly escorted
from the city by the Porta Portesa.  Alfonso was found at the point
of death, but not actually dead, by some passers-by, some of whom
recognised him, and instantly conveyed the news of his assassination
to the Vatican, while the others, lifting the wounded man in their
arms, carried him to his quarters in the Torre Nuova.  The pope and
Caesar, who learned this news just as they were sitting down to
table, showed great distress, and leaving their companions, at once
went to see Alfonso, to be quite certain whether his wounds were
fatal or not; and an the next morning, to divert any suspicion that
might be turned towards themselves, they arrested Alfonso's maternal
uncle, Francesco Gazella, who had come to Rome in his nephew's
company.  Gazella was found guilty on the evidence of false
witnesses, and was consequently beheaded.

But they had only accomplished half of what they wanted.  By some
means, fair or foul, suspicion had been sufficiently diverted from
the true assassins; but Alfonso was not dead, and, thanks to the
strength of his constitution and the skill of his doctors, who had
taken the lamentations of the pope and Caesar quite seriously, and
thought to please them by curing Alexander's son-in-law, the wounded
man was making progress towards convalescence: news arrived at the
same time that Lucrezia had heard of her husband's accident, and was
starting to come and nurse him herself.  There was no time to lose,
and Caesar summoned Michelotto.

"The same night," says Burcardus, "Don Alfonso, who would not die of
his wounds, was found strangled in his bed."

The funeral took place the next day with a ceremony not unbecoming in
itself, though, unsuited to his high rank.  Dan Francesca Bargia,
Archbishop of Cosenza, acted as chief mourner at St. Peter's, where
the body was buried in the chapel of Santa Maria delle Febbre.

Lucrezia arrived the same evening: she knew her father and brother
too well to be put on the wrong scent; and although, immediately
after Alfonso's death, the Duke of Valentinois had arrested the
doctors, the surgeons, and a poor deformed wretch who had been acting
as valet, she knew perfectly well from what quarter the blow had
proceeded.  In fear, therefore, that the manifestation of a grief she
felt this time too well might alienate the confidence of her father
and brother, she retired to Nepi with her whole household, her whole
court, and more than six hundred cavaliers, there to spend the period
of her mourning.

This important family business was now settled, and Lucrezia was
again a widow, and in consequence ready to be utilized in the pope's
new political machinations.  Caesar only stayed at Rome to receive
the ambassadors from France and Venice; but as their arrival was
somewhat delayed, and consider able inroads had been made upon the
pope's treasury by the recent festivities, the creation of twelve new
cardinals was arranged:  this scheme was to have two effects, viz ,
to bring 600,000 ducats into the pontifical chest, each hat having
been priced at 50,000 ducats, and to assure the pope of a constant
majority m the sacred council.

The ambassadors at last arrived: the first was M. de Villeneuve, the
same who had come before to see the Duke of Valentinois in the name
of France.  Just as he entered Rome, he met on the road a masked man,
who, without removing his domino, expressed the joy he felt at his
arrival.  This man was Caesar himself, who did not wish to be
recognised, and who took his departure after a short conference
without uncovering his face.  M. de Villeneuve then entered the city
after him, and at the Porta del Populo found the ambassadors of the
various Powers, and among them those of Spain and Naples, whose
sovereigns were not yet, it is true, in declared hostility to France,
though there was already some coolness.  The last-named, fearing to
compromise themselves, merely said to their colleague of France, by
way of complimentary address, "Sir, you are welcome"; whereupon the
master of the ceremonies, surprised at the brevity of the greeting,
asked if they had nothing else to say.  When they replied that they
had not, M. de Villeneuve turned his back upon them, remarking that
those who had nothing to say required no answer; he then took his
place between the Archbishop of Reggia, governor of Rome, and the
Archbishop of Ragusa, and made his way to the palace of the Holy
Apostles, which had been, got ready far his reception.

Same days later, Maria Giorgi, ambassador extraordinary of Venice,
made his arrival.  He was commissioned not only to arrange the
business on hand with the pope, but also to convey to Alexander and
Caesar the title of Venetian nobles, and to inform them that their
names were inscribed in the Golden Book--a favour that both of them

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: